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Mexico Friday Notebook

John Dagys’ Friday notebook from Mexico…

Photo: Porsche

***Details on the future of the FIA World Endurance Championship were revealed Friday afternoon during a press briefing with series boss Gerard Neveu and ACO President Pierre Fillon, confirming a switch to a winter calendar and the newly dubbed “Super Season” that will see an eight-round season take place over an 13-month period beginning in May 2018.

***LMP1 regulations for the next two seasons (2018-19 and 2019-20) were also confirmed, with plans for an all-new set of regulations for 2020-2021. 

***The Prologue, which returns to Paul Ricard, will kick off the next season on April 5-6, with a 36-hour continuous endurance test from Friday through Saturday evening. Neveu said the European Le Mans Series season-opener will also be at the French circuit within the same time period.

***Neveu said budgets for the 2019-2020 season, which is projected to start in October and feature seven rounds with the 24 Hours of Le Mans serving as the season finale, is projected to be 20 percent less than the cost for a LMP2 team this year. The eight-round Super Season, considered to be a transitional year for the championship, meanwhile will be around the same as the current budgets, despite 18 hours of additional racing time.

***The to-be-determined circuit for February 2019, meanwhile, should be confirmed by the end of this year, with Neveu revealing they are in discussions with three different venues. “It can be somewhere we can race at this period of the year, regarding the weather,” he said. “It would not be in Europe.” Neveu indicated the Middle East or locations in the Southern Hemisphere as possibilities. 

***While not returning to Silverstone, Neveu said the British circuit will still be part of the ELMS schedule, which will be released in September at the next round at Spa-Francorchamps.

***A number of drivers, crew and media arrived in the early morning hours of Friday, after more than a 30-hour delay. The British Airways flight from London was diverted to Cancun on Wednesday evening due to heavy rains and flooding, which temporarily closed the Mexico City airport. Thunderstorms in Cancun, and a backlog of air traffic into Mexico City, ultimately saw the delayed flight not get into Mexico City until 3 a.m. today.

***The stranded members of the WEC paddock took their unexpected beach vacation in stride, with Gulf Racing’s Ben Barker playing bingo at his all-inclusive hotel, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell having a strategy meeting with team principal George Howard-Chappell at a TGI Friday’s, and the WEC’s Sam Smith meeting a family of mongooses

***Friday’s opening day of track activity saw just a single Free Practice session, a move made at the request of the competitors to give teams more time to prep their cars in the first flyaway round of the season. A number of cars went through scrutineering this morning, instead of Thursday. The revised schedule sees the 90-minute FP2 and 60-minute FP3 now squeezed in on Saturday, prior to qualifying in the evening.

***A decision on customer Ford GTs for next year has still not been taken by the manufacturer, according to Multimatic’s Larry Holt. Holt told Sportscar365 the initial proposal was to build new cars for 2018 and make the existing Fords available to customers. That concept, however, has yet to be approved by top brass.

***Holt said he’s had interest from both U.S. and European-based customers wanting to take cars to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and indicated it could potentially even made possible with its current fleet of six cars, two of which are spare chassis. “I have a couple of guys that want to do a couple of races,” Holt told Sportscar365. “And both Ganassi [teams] have a spare car.”

***Ford has also yet to decide whether it will push forward with its proposed Evo kit, which has already been designed by Multimatic. Holt admitted that adopting the Evo kit could put them at a further power disadvantage.  “The evo on this car would be an aero evolution,” he said. “We’re already superior to everything else on pit lane from an aero perspective. They compensate it by taking power away.”

***All new or updated GTE and GT3-spec cars are required to take part in the FIA Balance of Performance test at Ladoux in order to be eligible for next year. The week-long test is scheduled for mid-September.

***Onroak Automotive is set to utilize its one-permitted “joker” update for its Ligier JS P217 Gibson at the end of this season. It’s understood the French constructor is currently working on the package, which is focused on aero developments and weight reduction. The update would be made available to all customer teams for 2018. Onroak President Jacques Nicolet said he expects to have news from the ACO by mid-September on the amount of changes that will be permitted.

***Jackie Chan DC Racing is expected to announce its 2017-18 Asian Le Mans Series program this weekend, which could see up to three cars run by the Chinese squad, with the assistance of Jota Sport.  High demand for the Oreca 05 in the series, which still runs to previous-generation LMP2 rules, has seen the French constructor receive new orders for the 2015-spec prototype.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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